Justin Rodski reflected on his first season as CEO and recognised award winners and those departing the club at the Melbourne Storm Player of the Year Awards on Friday night.
Appointed in January, Rodski said the 2021 season started with great promise as defending premiers and with fans finally back at AAMI Park after 538 days.
“We really do have a lot to be proud of and celebrate tonight, including rewriting the history books,” Rodski said.
We took home the minor premiership for the eighth time, equalled the NRL record of 19 consecutive wins in a season, scored 40 points or more on more occasions than any other team in the one season, played in our seventh consecutive preliminary final and finished in the top two at the end of the home and away season for the sixth consecutive year.CEO Justin Rodski on the 2021 season
“So, apart from another Premiership, 2021 was a season we should all feel proud of.”
With players, coaches, staff, commercial partners and members together for the first time since May, Rodski also addressed the off-field challenges faced by the club in the last few weeks.
"There have been many who have been quick to question our culture and standards,” Rodski said.
“Let me be very clear to everyone in this room tonight and anyone who questioned our club over this period. Our Club has faced some extraordinary challenges and heartbreaking setbacks over the last 23 years.
“On each occasion, however, the strength of our people and the values of our club have stood strong.
“How we respond is now what matters most, I am absolutely confident in the way the club is handling these challenges, and the way the team and players will respond through their actions in the coming weeks and months.” Rodski said.
For all the challenges, Rodski said there were great steps made off the field.
“We had more people watching, following, sharing and engaging with Storm over the year than in any previous season,” Rodski said.
“We were independently ranked as the most supported team in the country, with the biggest audience in Australian sport, and our members again rallied around the club in record numbers, breaking through 28,000 for the first time.
“Our partners have remained loyal and committed over the last two years under extremely difficult circumstances. Partnerships are critical to our financial strength and strategic growth
“It is why we want to protect what we have and today was a big step in doing just that.
“It was a privilege to be at our Major Partner, RedZed’s head office with many of our players to formally announce a new three-year extension of our Major Partnership with RedZed.
“RedZed are more than just a sponsor, they are a partner, with common values, shared objectives, and a business that cares about its people, just like the Melbourne Storm.” Rodski said.
Storm now has all of its jersey partners confirmed for the 2022 season with HostPlus, Grill’d, TRADIE, Suzuki, Castore and Car Sales all committed for the season ahead.
There is no doubt we have had to find new ways to deliver value throughout the year, and while we have had to adapt along the way, we are thankful for the flexible approach you have all taken to servicing and delivering our partnerships.
Our members have also shown unbelievable loyalty and faith in our Club over the last two seasons.
“While they haven’t seen much football live, they have continued to grow in numbers and we reached another record in 2021,” Rodski said.
“Knowing just how much football they had missed over the last two seasons, the Club made the decision to offer a free membership to nearly 23,000 Victorian members for the 2022 season.
“This was a bold decision - especially considering the important revenues from membership, but it was a decision that was unanimously supported by the Board. And in the end, it was an easy decision to make, because it was the right decision.”
The Club now has sights set on growing our member base to reach a target of 40,000 members in 2022.
Rodski also announced the Club had already hit 20,000 members for the 2022 season, which is a great result so early in the pre-season.
Our members and fans love coming to AAMI Park as much as our players love playing there,CEO Justin Rodski
“It has become a fortress for Storm and our attendances are the biggest of any tenant at the stadium.
“I’d like to thank and welcome Melbourne and Olympic Parks Chairman, Patrick Flanigan and CEO John Harnden, for their support of Storm.
Working with MOPT and the State Government we have plans to enhance and upgrade our existing facilities, delivering improved and much needed, world-class training and administration spaces for the Melbourne Storm.
While it is important to have the best resources and facilities, it is even more important to have the best people.
“Having spent almost a year as CEO, it is very clear to me that having stability within key football department leadership roles has been a huge part of the Club’s success,” Rodski said.
“That’s why it was so important for us to have lock in Craig Bellamy, Frank Ponissi and recruitment manager, Paul Bunn, on long-term contracts during the year.
“When you then look at our playing roster and inject our new recruits, I think we can all be excited about what lies ahead in 2022.
“And we are proud too of those players who have made the decision to move on for season 2022, in particular, our co-captain this year in Dale Finucane, Josh Addo-Carr and Nicho Hynes, who are all here this evening.
“We know it is never an easy decision to leave this Club, but we wish them, and all of our other departing players, all the best for the future,” Rodski said.
Of course, our football team can’t perform at its best without the support of the rest of the club.
“I’d like to thank our executive team and administration staff for their hard work, patience and resilience during another COVID interrupted season. So much of what we do revolves around match day and putting on the show and to have that taken away was difficult and challenging, but we can now look to next season with a great sense of excitement,” Rodski said.
“This year, the Club introduced a new initiative to recognise the outstanding contribution and leadership of Melbourne Storm founding father John Ribot.
“The John Ribot Award is designed to inspire and support the leadership development of staff at Melbourne Storm and Sunshine Coast Lightning and, in the inaugural year, congratulations to our Head of Partnerships, Hollie Stone, and Legal Counsel, Scott Ogilvie, joint winners of the award.
I am so grateful to have had such great support, working with such great people, in my first season as CEO.CEO Justin Rodski
“This Club is very lucky to have a Board and group of shareholders as passionate and caring about the Storm as our Chairman, Matt Tripp, and Directors– Gerry Ryan, Brett Ralph, Bart Campbell, Danielle Smith and Tom Carroll.
“I have no doubt your passion, energy and investment in the Melbourne Storm and its continued success, will ensure the club remains a powerhouse, on and off the field for the next 25 years.” Rodski said.
From the Board Room to the Locker Room, and everywhere in between, it is the people who continue to drive the culture and standards that separate the Melbourne Storm from other sporting organisations.